ALFRED, NY – The Alfred University men's basketball team had the Terry S. Galanis Family Arena rocking on Tuesday night for a matchup with a tough Nazareth College team.
Dom LeMorta (Scotia, NY/Scotia-Glenville) had a huge night to lead AU to its 11th straight win of the Season and their first ever regular season Empire 8 Championship.
The Saxons (21-4, 14-2) defeated the Golden Flyers by a score of 94-83 and secured the top seed for the Empire 8 Tournament beginning this Friday. It will be the first time that the AU men's basketball team will host the Empire 8 tournament.
This one was close the whole way with both teams making tremendous plays to keep it tight for the entire contest. LeMorta came out firing right away with his first three-point bucket coming just over a minute in.
Down 6-5 with 18:27 on the clock the Saxons began a 13-4 run to go up 18-10.
Brewster Marshall (Horseheads, NY/Horseheads) began to heat up from behind the arc, with two long balls within minutes of one another to keep Alfred ahead, 24-19. Scotty Stopera (Scotia, NY/Scotia-Glenville) also hit a three to put AU up 27-19 with 9:06 left in the first half.
Every time it looked as if the Saxons might pull away, Nazareth came fighting back. A couple of short jumpers capped off by a dunk and a three-pointer from Nazareth made the score 33-31 in favor of Alfred at the 5:43 mark.
From that point, LeMorta took over for the remainder of the first half, creating his own shots and burying every basket from all over the court. He led the Saxons to a 10 point lead at the break and accounted for 20 of Alfred's 49 points in the first half.
The Golden Flyers quickly worked their way back within striking range to begin the second half. Multiple midrange jumpers followed by a three made it a four point game at the 17 minute mark.
Sage Brown (Cortland, NY/Cortland) and Lemorta hit back to back three's to help AU regain a seven point lead.
Sam Dagon (Hornell, NY/Hornell) contributed to the long range shooting fest for the Saxons with two second half three's. Dagon also flew in for a timely tip in layup off of a missed three.
With 7:38 to go, the Golden Flyers hit a pair of free throws to pull within two points, making the score 68-66. A Marshall bucket for Alfred pushed the lead back up to three before Nazareth hit a shot from beyond the arc to make it 70-69 with 6:25 to play.
With the game on the line late, LeMorta proved once again how valuable he has been in big games all season and hit an off balance triple to make the score 75-71 with just over five minutes to play.
Brown came in clutch with a three of his own minutes later to push the AU lead up to nine points.
With under two minutes to play, the Saxons held a 10 point lead and the Golden Flyers were forced to begin fouling to extend the game.
LeMorta, Marshall and Stopera went to the line and hit 9-10 free throws to close out the game and give Alfred University a historic win.
"Going 1-0 everyday has been our slogan and mantra and has kept us going throughout the season, so when the situations became a bit bigger, we didn't think about it and just focused on the task at hand," Head Coach Russell Phillips said. "All credit goes to the seniors. They've done a great job and they are some of the hardest-working guys I've seen. They've had goals set out to get to this spot and to win it. Hosting is going to be awesome for Alfred and for the fans as the fan support was fantastic tonight."
LeMorta closed the regular season on a high note recording a career high 35 points to lead all scorers. Marshall had a huge game in the post and from behind the three point line with 21 points and nine rebounds. Brown and Stopera also finished in double figures with Brown recording a near double double with 15 points and nine boards. Stopera ended with 10 points and a team high seven assists.
The Empire 8 Tournament will tip off in Terry S. Galanis Family arena this Friday evening with Alfred taking on fourth seeded Stevens. Two seeded Nazareth will then take on St. John Fisher College directly after at 7:30PM.
The winners of those two games will play in the championship game on Saturday at 3:30PM.